Short-term rentals

LOS LUNAS—The recent approval of a new ordinance in the village of Los Lunas provides both an enforcement tool as well as a permitting process for short-term rentals.

“Like in many other communities, our zoning code did not anticipate short-term rentals; there was no such use,” said Erin Callahan, the community development director for the village. “The closest thing we had was a boarding house or tourist room, and those were only allowed with a designated use permit. If anyone had a short term rental, they were all in violation (of the village ordinance).”

Short-term rentals, such as those found on Airbnb and VRBO, for the most part haven’t been on the radar for the village, Callahan said.

“However, 99 percent of the time we’re unaware of it happening because it’s very easy to list properties with these companies,” she said. “The sites don’t ask for paperwork, regulations are inconsistent around the country. The majority of the ones in the village are not causing problems; if there are nuisance issues happening, then we are aware since it’s an issue where the police department might need to respond but it’s also a zoning violation.”

The new ordinance creates a permitting process and amends its zoning code to allow short-term rentals with that permit.

The ordinance, unanimously approved by the village council, allows short-term rentals in residential zones as an accessory use. A property owner can rent their entire house for no more than 180 cumulative calendar days a year.

Renting a room is already allowed as an accessory use, Callahan said, but there is now time limitations under the ordinance. There are also restrictions on how many properties can be registered as short-term rentals in a given area.

“For instance, there can’t be two on adjacent properties on the same street. Through the permitting process, it allows us to track who’s operating but also makes sure our residentially zoned areas don’t become saturated with something that is more like a commercial use.”

When the ordinance was presented to the council, members expressed concern that it allowed 15 days to “cure” violations, as is typical with zoning ordinances.

“The concern was we would have nuisance situations at short-term rentals that were maybe a threat to public safety, and the council was concerned the 15 days was too long. The party would already be over and there was no violation to correct,” Callahan said.

The ordinance was amended before approval to say if any conduct by a renter results in a citation from the police department or criminal complaint, the 15 days isn’t required and there could be an immediate citation to the owner of the property.

“We’ve also made it clear that the police department will respond to these properties like any situation where there is criminal activity or nuisance violations, like excessive noise,” Callahan said. “They will issue a citation and them my department takes it up and that could be an additional violation.”

Callahan said the village has had nuisance issues at one particular property being rented short term, but most of the time people are operating responsibly.

“We want to make sure, it situations get out of hand, we’re able to correct them. We are not that kind of tourist destination at this point. Overall, I think people are being respectful,” she said. “The benefit of this ordinance is to keep us on track so we don’t see neighborhoods turn to entirely short-term rentals and we keep the housing market in order.”

A recent change to state law removed the exemption for lodgers taxes on short-term rentals.

“There was a large study done recently that showed short-term rentals was a big growing market for lodgers,” she said. “The exemption has been removed and based on the number of rooms available, we can assess lodgers tax on short-term rentals.”

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